Chelsea have reportedly added Athletic Bilbao and emerging Spain goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to their transfer radar as the 2017/18 FA Cup winners attempt to source a replacement for Thibaut Courtois, who remains intent on joining Real Madrid.
Courtois failed to report for training on Monday as expected, although contrary to the popular belief that quickly surfaced on social media he was not in Tenerife at the time – he holidayed on the Spanish island last week when the incriminating picture was actually taken.
What is for sure is that the Belgian stopper was not present at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground as he holds out for a move back to La Liga, where he previously spent three years on loan with Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2014, and specifically Real.
With Courtois seemingly desperate to leave and Chelsea only permitted to sign new players until the early Premier League transfer deadline on Thursday, the west London side find themselves having to urgently find a replacement or face a double blow.
The Thursday deadline bears no importance for Real, who can freely sign new players until the end of the month. It means that Chelsea will be extremely vulnerable even if they fail to complete a new signing in the next two days as Courtois could still force his way out.
Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland emerged as a target soon after it became apparent Courtois had gone AWOL. But, refusing to limit their options, Chelsea are also said to be looking at Kepa, with AS reporting that the club are ‘ready’ to trigger the €80m (£71m) buyout clause in his contract.
A claim from Sky Sports states, however, that Chelsea would still prefer to sign Butland, an England international with three years of Premier League experience, as at £30m he would cost less than half of the world record fee it would take to prise Kepa away from Bilbao.
Kepa only signed a new long-term contract with Bilbao in January, with that deal tying him to the Basque club until 2025 and increasing a previously affordable buyout clause as an attempt to ward off growing interest from Real at the time.